Oscar Week: Looking forward with DuVernay & Davis

It’s Oscar Week here on The Narrator, but instead of pretending like I’ve seen every Best Picture nominee this year (as of two weeks ago, I’ve only seen four), I prefer to look towards next year’s nominations.

I’ll take my cue from the 2012 Sundance Film Festival: Just in time for Black History Month, California filmmaker Ava DuVernay won big in January, becoming the first black woman to win the Best Director Prize for her second feature film Middle of Nowhere, and I can’t help but expect this film on next year’s Oscar ballot.

DuVernay’s prison wives’ tale follows Ruby (Emayatzy Corinealdi), a woman living with the loss of her husband Derek (Omari Hardwick) to incarceration in California; Derek serves a life sentence, but Ruby works to survive her own version of hard time.

Considered the underdog of the festival’s U.S. Dramatic Competition (Benh Zeitlin was the anticipated favorite, with the post-Katrina film, Beasts of the Southern Wild), DuVernay’s acceptance speech put forth an artistic (and business) challenge: She was thankful for the Sundance win, but for her it’s just as important for Nowhere to be seen even after the festival’s end and for “filmmakers of color to see one another’s films and have them seen.”

Best Actress Nominee Viola Davis

Mission likely accomplished for Middle of Nowhere, as it was quickly snatched up for distribution by Participant Media, whose most recent and memorable films include An Inconvenient Truth, Waiting for Superman, and The Help.

I look forward to DuVernay’s Middle of Nowhere to pop up in theaters this year, and I wonder if this acquisition by Participant Media might also respond to the pleas of one of the production company’s Oscar nominees, Viola Davis, who has been vocal about the limited roles and scripts she receives from filmmakers of color.

My prediction for next year’s Oscar season: Middle of Nowhere will see more than a couple of nominations, but we’ll also be treated to a DuVernay/Davis collabo!

Who’s your favorite director/actor team? Tell us in the comments. (And, yes, it’s okay if Tim Burton/Johnny Depp comes up more than once.)

Check back throughout the week for more Oscar content!